What Is a Descriptive Adjective?

Article Details
  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Part of Grand Central Station, there is a secret railway platform underneath the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.  more...

October 22 ,  1962 :  US President John F. Kennedy ordered an air and naval blockade in Cuba.  more...

A descriptive adjective is a word that is used to describe another word directly; it is typically found immediately adjacent to what it describes. For example, in phrases like “the fast man,” “the lazy dog,” and “my red car,” there are three simple, descriptive adjectives in the form of “fast,” “lazy,” and “red.” There are also compound adjectives that typically require two or more words together such as “ice-cold water;” proper nouns can be used as adjectives in a phrase like “Roman haircut.” A descriptive adjective can also be a participial verb acting as an adjective such as “running shoes” or “swimming instructor.”

Although all adjectives are used to describe or modify something, a descriptive adjective is used directly with the word or phrase that it modifies. This is in contrast to other types of adjectives such as the word “happy” in a sentence like “My dog is happy,” in which it is a predicate adjective. A simple descriptive adjective is one word that is used with the object that it is modifying. This type of word is one of the most common adjectives and is often easily identifiable; it includes words like “fast” in “fast car” or “silly” in “silly dog.”


A compound descriptive adjective is also fairly common and includes two or more words that are used together to act as a single descriptive phrase. These words are often hyphenated to indicate that only one idea is being expressed by them. Simple examples of a compound descriptive adjective can include “wind-swept” in the phrase “wind-swept plains” or “red-hot” in “red-hot poker.” While these phrases function as adjectives, the words used within them are often nouns and verbs.

Proper adjectives use a proper noun to describe or modify something else. These are commonly used as a descriptive adjective and often indicate something that is from a particular nationality or to celebrate a holiday. Phrases like “Chinese food,” “Italian meatballs,” and “Christmas cards,” all use a proper adjective to describe the other noun that they accompany.

A participial verb can also be used as a descriptive adjective. Verbs in the participle form usually have the “-ing” suffix at the end of them. This is often seen in a phrase in which the action of a verb describes something that is used in performing that action. For example, in the phrase “running shoes,” the shoes are used for the act of running and so the participle form of the verb itself can be an adjective that describes them.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 1
I think my favorite word of all time is sonorous, which is a descriptive adjective. I love the way the word sounds and I also love the meaning. Plus, it is one of those weird words that is not an onomatopoeia, but has the same effect. The word sonorous sounds quite a bit like the sounds that it describes.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?